“I think your dad gets it too. Maurice knows I’m sick of glitz and glamour, and the little cottage here is exactly what I need. No celebrities, no paparazzi, and no crushing pressure. It’s just the sun, sand, sea, and a beautiful woman too.”
Rachel’s cheeks blush and she’s so gorgeous that the breath catches in my throat. Is she part of the reason I’m ready to slow down? Is she influencing this decision in any way? Of course, I was already contemplating pulling back from the business before, but now, has it taken on a new urgency?
But I want to talk about Rachel too.
“How about you, honey? What’s going on in your life? How is Birthing Babies coming along?”
The curvy brunette lets out a peal of laughter.
“Well, glitz and glamour are certainly not in the vocabulary I would use to describe my work, that’s for sure.”
“So tell me about it,” I invite.
“Well, I love my job, to be honest. I cater to women who want home births. I don’t know if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to go to a NYC hospital with any sort of emergency, but it’s like herding cattle through a chute. There’s nothing natural or holistic about it because you just feel like you’re a small mite in a huge industrial operation. Not that it’s all bad,” she adds hastily. “I have no complaints about the actual caregivers or providers, but in NYC, the hospitals are too crowded and the staff is totally overworked. Try having a baby in that sort of environment.”
I nod and think for a moment.
“You have a good point, sweetheart. To be honest, it’s never crossed my mind before because I’ve never thought about it. But it makes sense and sounds stressful.”
She laughs, her tone melodious and sweet. “Unfortunately, it is stressful. Most of my clients don’t even know what a New York hospital is like until after their tour. Then, they see the conveyor belt-like production line, and they’re just not interested. So I provide options. As a midwife, I’m able to go to my client’s home, and to create a warm, loving environment where they can go into labor in peace. Well, as peaceful as delivery can be,” she amends.
“So I take it you like being a midwife?” I ask.
Rachel brightens, her expression lighting up.
“Oh yes. Most people don’t have a clue what it takes to be a midwife in New York State because they think it’s just some hand-holding along with lighting incense and chanting hippie mantras. But New York actually requires midwives to have a master’s degree to be licensed, so it’s not nothing.”
“Of course,” I say in a supportive tone. “I’m sure you’re one of the best, honey.” Rachel throws me a sweet look.
“Thanks, but it’s just frustrating when we’re snubbed by doctors who think they know everything because they have an MD. I’m not questioning their medical judgment, but giving birth is about more than just popping a baby out. The environment matters a lot, and sometimes, physicians just don’t get that.”
“Of course. It makes sense because giving birth is potentially one of the most important moments of a woman’s life.”
Rach nods, and for a moment, an image flashes into my mind. It’s of the curvy girl holding a baby to her breast, suckling the child. Even more, it’s my child she’s cradling, and a rush of possession runs through me. Where is this coming from? I’ve always been a confirmed bachelor who lived a fast-paced life without any commitments. But now, the thought of Rachel’s tummy heavy and full with my baby inside makes need flow through my veins.
I try to hide it, of course, as the curvy girl talks more about her job, but I’m not listening. Instead, I’m watching the sassy girl’s animated gestures, and the way her eyes take on a look of devotion and care.
Suddenly, it strikes me. Rachel’s absolutely beautiful. Not just her face and her curves, but her soul is gorgeous. I find myself regretting the fact that soon enough, life will take us on our different paths. Rather abruptly, I interrupt.
“How long do you think you can stay at the cottage?”
Rachel’s face falls a bit at the change in subject. She laughs, but there’s a regretful undertone to it.
“To be honest, I probably need to head back before the weekend.”
My heart contracts. Fuck. It’s already Tuesday, which gives us only a few more days together. Suddenly, I want her to stay, and I want our idyllic vacation to continue forever. But she can’t because there are babies waiting to be born, and I can’t either, because I have a business to tend to. So instead, I school my expression into neutrality.
“Of course. A job is a job, and these kids come when they feel like it.”
She merely smiles faintly. “Yes, that’s true. But what about you, Max? What does the next chapter hold for you?”